*Legislator manages Govt quarter despite having own house
JAMMU, Feb 19: While the Government and the State Legislature kept sleeping over the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for several months, the intervention of Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC) has led to de-hiring of private house belonging to sitting National Conference Legislator by the Estates Department and recovery of rent worth lakhs of rupees from him.
Moreover, it has also come to the fore that the legislator had managed Government accommodation despite having own house with the sole objective of earning benefit by hiring it to the Estates Department, which is totally unbecoming on the part of a public functionary as such warrants action as per the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission Act.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which is the supreme audit institution of India, in its report tabled in the State Legislature in the month of June last year, had made revelations about avoidable expenditure due to non-adherence to the norms vis-Ã -vis allotment of Government accommodations and hiring of private houses by the Estates Department. The report was exclusively highlighted by EXCELSIOR on June 30, 2016.
Though the State Government was supposed to take action on the CAG findings and Legislature had to exert pressure for the same to ensure transparency in the functioning of the Estates Department yet both brushed the serious issue under the carpet.
However, the State Accountability Commission (SAC) took suo-moto cognizance of the findings of CAG and by making use of the powers available under J&K State Accountability Commission Act, issued notice to the Estates Department seeking information on various aspects relating to allotment of Government accommodation and hiring of private houses with specific reference to the instances quoted by the CAG.
In the reply of the Estates Department, the name of National Conference MLC Dr Bashir Ahmed Veeri figured as ‘violator’ of the rules governing the subject, reliable sources in the Estates Department told EXCELSIOR. On this, the Accountability Commission sought further information by summoning the Director of the Department.
When the matter came up for hearing before the Full Commission comprising Justice B A Khan (Chairperson) and Justice J P Singh and Justice B A Kirmani (Members) few days back, Director Estates while appearing in person placed on record a Government Order No.10-EST of 2017 dated January 21, 2017 mentioning that action regarding errors committed by the department in the case of National Conference MLC Dr Bashir Ahmed Veeri has been taken.
According to the order, the copy of which was managed by EXCELSIOR from Estates Department, vide Government Order No.277-EST of 2013 dated December 10, 2013 Government Quarter No.3-B Gandhi Nagar Jammu was allotted in favour of MLC Dr Bashir Ahmed Veeri for a period of one year on payment of rent as admissible under rules which was further extended vide Government Order No.189-EST of 2014 dated October 24, 2014 up to ending April 2015.
“However, the possession of this Government quarter continued with the allottee without any further extension”, reads the order issued by Dr G N Itoo, Director Estates J&K.
He further said that an offer was received from one Dr Bashir Ahmed Shah, owner of private house No.8-A Tawi Vihar Sidhra Jammu on December 15, 2014 for letting out the house to the Estates Department on rental basis. The house was hired with effect from September 15, 2015 vide Government Order No.237-EST of 2015 dated October 30, 2015.
“Upon further scrutiny of the official and revenue records, it transpired that the private house is owned by the same person who has been allotted Government Quarter No.3-B Gandhi Nagar Jammu”, the order said.
The MLC was allotted Government quarter despite having own house in Sidhra area in clear violation of Rule 5(a) of the Rules on the subject notified vide Government Order No.169-GAD of 2004 dated February 10, 2004, which declares that any person who has his/her own house in his/her name or in the name of his/her parents or spouse is ineligible for allotment of residential accommodation.
“Now, it has been felt expedient to rectify the inadvertent error committed and private House No.8-A Tawi Vihar Sidhra Jammu belonging to Dr Bashir Ahmad Shah (Veeri), MLC, has been de-hired and recovery of part rental paid to the tune of Rs 1.95 lakh from the owner has been ordered”, reads the order of Director Estates.
“Had there been no intervention from the Accountability Commission the Estates Department would have not taken such a step by succumbing to political pressure”, insiders in the department said on the condition of anonymity, adding “the inadvertent error the excuse of which has been taken by Director Estates has no ground as it is the duty of the department to ensure that rules are followed and not violated by anybody”.
“It is totally unbecoming on the part of law maker concerned to indulge in such activities”, sources remarked, adding “as his act falls under the domain of the J&K State Accountability Commission Act it is to be seen what action the Commission takes especially in the light of order issued by the Director Estates whereby the guilt of the Legislator seems to have been established”.